Sunday, March 23, 2014

Updated: Chromebook for Audiophiles: Acer C720 + FiiO Alpen E17 DAC + headphone amplifier

Update: Chromebook audio player plays flawless flac files now (if the CPU is not too busy).

When I ordered my FiiO E17 (ALPEN) USB DAC headphone amplifier I was not sure if it will ever run on the chromebook. Surprisingly it works as expected, just plug and play. No driver, nothing needed. Thanks to Google!
I did not mention it in my review, but the Acer C720 is not shooting HIFI sound out of the 3.5mm headphone jack. I was not expecting it though, but now with the Alpen E17 it sounds like a high end audio system for a very affordable price (if you own good  headphones) .

The FiiO E17 acts as an external soundcard which takes the digital sound data from the USB port and converts it in the small black box to very smooth and powerful sound. Especially the bass is now impressive, I guess the internal soundcards do not have enough power to boost the headphones strong enough.
The chromebook seems to convert all audio files to 48kHz/16bit audiostreams via USB audio. I played 96 kHz / 24 bit .flac (lossless) files. It was converted automatically to 48 kHz / 16 bit as well (at least the E17 display showed this). The internal chromebook player did not a great job when playing the 96 kHz / 24bit flac file. There were many hicks and kicks which might be related to the sound conversion which is done in the background. (This issue has been solved by a recent ChromeOS update). Now flac files can be played in full quality by the internal player (even from the gdrive).
The other audio players in the cloud (, amazon cloud player, google music) worked perfectly, eventhough they do not work lossless.

Overall a perfect upgrade of the chromebook for Audiophiles.

During updating the article I was enjoying lossless music on my Chromebook using the FiiO E17 (ALPEN) USB DAC headphone amplifier and the very old (but very good sounding) Sony MCR-CD770 heaphones (see the full setup in the picture above). The internal music player update + DAC made the Chromebook the most affordable mobile sound server for audiophiles.

I have upgraded my E17 recently with the FiiO E09K Desktop Headphone Amplifier and Dock for E07K or E17. It works flawlessly as well. Just plug-in the USB, turn it on and enjoy the audio. It can be used to drive active external speakers or amplifiers as well.


  1. Anonymous2/06/2014

    You answered my question. Thanks

  2. Anonymous4/30/2014

    I plugged in my FIIO X3, it recognizes it as a DAC... but I can't get any audio to play. Any thoughts?

  3. All I can say is... Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! I'm gonna get that E17!

  4. Will the chromebook work with nuforce amps?

  5. I thought that FLAC when uploaded to Google Drive is converted to a lossy format? If so, playback of files from Google Drive would be of a lossy format.

  6. Google drive does not convert flac files. Google music does. I think you mixed them up.

  7. I just got an E17 for travel so it works as you stated and the sound is amazing! Thank you!

    1. Thanks William for your feedback.

  8. What are you using to record input?